How to Determine Your Skin Type: The Ultimate Guide

Written by: Rebecca Eaton

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Time to read 15 min

If you’ve ever purchased skincare products before, the chances are you know what we’re talking about when we say ‘skin type.’ Whether you’re a skincare expert who knows your skin like the back of your hand or a novice just beginning to explore what’s happening beneath the surface, understanding your skin type is crucial for maintaining skin health. 


Wondering why exactly? It dictates what products are most beneficial, how to use them effectively, and what your skin needs (and doesn’t need) to glow year-round. 


Now that we've got your attention If you're eager to learn more about the different skin types, how to identify yours, and how to care for it, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive in and get started!

Lady looking away from camera with her hair blowing in the breeze

What are ‘Skin Types’ — And What Are Their Characteristics?

People generally refer to the five primary skin categories when discussing skin types, each distinguished by unique characteristics: oily, dry, combinational, normal, and sensitive. What determines your skin type? It’s a mix of genetics, environment, and lifestyle choices. So, whether you’re battling shine, dryness, or a bit of both, understanding your skin type is the first step in mastering your skincare routine and taking back control of your skin health.


Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening beneath the surface for each of the five skin types and what characteristics to look out for:

Oily Skin:

Characteristics:

  • The skin will appear shiny and greasy, particularly in the t-zone area (i.e., forehead, nose, and chin).

  • The pores are generally more enlarged and visible.

  • More acne-prone skin . The skin may experience more breakouts, blackheads, and whiteheads as excess oil production and dead skin cells caused by the normal skin shedding process can more easily clog and congest pores.

  • Your makeup may wear off faster and more easily due to the excess oil.

The Reason:

Generally speaking, oily skin results from overactive sebaceous glands producing more oil than required, resulting in excessive oiliness. There are several contributing factors to oily skin, including:

  • Genetics—Did you know that if your parents have oily skin, you are more likely to have oily skin yourself?

  • Hormones — Fluctuating hormones can easily interfere with normal sebum (oil) production, resulting in an oversupply. While this won’t necessarily happen to everyone, hormone changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and even during periods of stress are worth watching out for.

  • Weather and climate — Hot weather and high humidity can increase your skin’s oil production.

  • Diet — They say you are what you eat, and this rings especially true for skin health. Diets high in sugar, dairy, and highly processed foods may stimulate oil production.

  • Skincare—Poor-quality skincare and practices can result in oilier skin. For example, using products or techniques that are too harsh on the skin may encourage your skin to produce even more oil if excessive oil has been stripped from it.


[Read More: Know Your Skin: The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Acne ]

Dry Skin:

Characteristics:

  • Skin that feels tight
  • Rough and flakey textured skin
  • A dull complexion
  • Easily irritated skin or sporadic red patches

The Reason:

There are a few common reasons why people may fall under the ‘ dry skin ’ skin type, including:

  • Inadequate oil production — If your skin is not naturally producing enough sebum, it will result in dry, textured skin due to the lack of natural oils.

  • Weakened skin barrier—Your skin barrier is critical to your overall skin health. When compromised, it may result in dry skin as it isn’t functioning optimally, allowing moisture to escape.

  • Your environment—Just as hot, humid climates can cause oily skin, cold, low-humidity environments can also dry your skin out. Fun fact: this also includes hot showers!


[Read More: Dr Tanya’s 7 Tips for Soothing Dry and Dehydrated Skin]

Combination Skin:

Characteristics:

Simply put, combination, as the name suggests, is someone who experiences excess oil in certain parts of the skin and dryness in other parts. Generally, this will look like:

  • Excess oil in the t-zone area (i.e., nose, chin, and forehead) and dry and flaky on the cheeks.

  • Your pores may appear more visible on certain parts of your face.

The Reason:

What might be the reason you fit into the combination skin category? Here are just a couple of the common causes:

  • Hormones — If you’re experiencing fluctuating hormones, this can cause unusual and inconsistent skin characteristics.

  • Inconsistent oil distribution—This may occur when your sebaceous glands produce uneven oil levels, resulting in oil becoming visible on different parts of the face. 

Normal Skin:

Characteristics:

  • The ideal oil-to-dry skin ratio (i.e., well-balanced skin).

  • Pores that don’t appear enlarged or overly visible.

  • Skin that is smooth in texture.

The Reason:

Here are a couple of the reasons why you may fall into the normal skin category:

  • Balance — This skin type produces the ideal balance of oil and skin hydration.

  • Genetics — Similar to oily skin, normal skin is often inherited from family members. 

Sensitive Skin:

Characteristics:

  • Easily irritated by elements, skincare, and chemicals.
  • Skin that generally looks red.
  • Skin that feels typically dry, itchy, or burns when using various products.

The Reason:

Here are just a few of the reasons you might have sensitive skin :

  • Immune system—People with overactive immune systems are more likely to have sensitive skin that reacts to allergens and various chemicals used in skincare, makeup, etc.

  • Compromised skin barrier — If you have a weaker skin barrier, which can have many causes, it’s more likely to allow various irritants to penetrate the skin rather than acting as a defence system.

  • Genetics — Certain skin conditions, such as eczema and rosacea, can be genetic.


[Read More: Sensitive Skin Skincare: The Complete Guide

A woman looking into the camera with her hands on her face

What Factors Influence My Skin Type?

Thought you had little control over your skin type? Think again! While we briefly touched on the varying reasons a person may experience certain traits based on different skin types, many overarching factors play a role in determining one’s skin type.


While genetics play a significant role, believe it or not, many other contributing factors fall into your own hands. Let’s unpack the key factors that influence your skin type:


Genetics

Your genes play a significant role in determining your skin type by influencing oil distribution and levels. Since oil production largely defines different skin types, it’s safe to say genetics are a major player.


Hormones

Hormonal fluctuations — such as those experienced during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause — in addition to hormonal imbalances from conditions like PCOS can affect sebum production and thus influence your skin type.


Age

We all hate to admit it, but time does alter our skin. Our collagen and elastin levels naturally deplete as we age, and our skin will generally produce less oil.


Weather Conditions

As mentioned above, your skin will respond differently to hot and cold weather. High heat and humidity can increase oil production, while cold, dry environments can cause dryness. Environmental pollutants also impact skin health.


Lifestyle

Diet, hydration, stress, smoking, and alcohol consumption all impact skin health. These factors can affect oil production, cause breakouts, and weaken the skin barrier.


Skincare Products

The quality of your skincare ritual (i.e., what products and how you use them) can influence your skin type. For example, using too harsh products can strip your skin of natural oils.


Health and Disease

Certain skin disorders (i.e., psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea), as well as diseases like diabetes or thyroid issues, can impact the state of your skin. Not to mention, different medications can have specific skin-altering side effects, such as hormonal changes from contraceptives.


Sun Exposure

Ongoing UV damage can influence your skin type by causing excessive dryness and skin damage. 

A lady outside staring into the distance with her arms near her face

What Is My Skin Type?

Found yourself sitting there thinking, “All this info is nice, but what is my skin type? We get it. With so much conflicting skincare advice online, it can be tough to pinpoint exactly what category your skin falls into. Perhaps your skin feels oilier some days and perfectly balanced the next? Or maybe you’re not even quite sure how to assess what your skin is doing.


Fortunately, there are a few easy tips and resources you can lean on to help determine your skin type from the comfort of your home. Let’s get started!


The At-Home Skin Test


Step 1: Cleanse your face thoroughly with a gentle cleanser to remove all makeup, pollutants, and oils. Pat dry your face using a clean towel and let your skin stay in its natural state for a good hour—no skincare, no makeup, etc.


Step 2: Watch your skin closely to assess how it feels and looks after the hour. Look for key characteristics that may lead you more one way — i.e., is your t-zone shiny or matte? Do your pores look enlarged and visible? Do your cheeks feel tight or normal? Are you noticing excessive redness?


Step 3: Blot your face with a tissue (be sure to focus on areas that are more likely to produce oil like your forehead, nose, and chin). With this step, you want to look for oil remnants on the sheet.


Step 4: Check back in with yourself and assess your results. The following may help indicate what your skin type is:

  • If you experienced extra shine, visible oil (whether by eyesight or on the blotting paper), and enlarged and visible pores, you likely have oily skin.

  • If you experienced rough and flaky skin, unnoticeable pores, and little or no oil on your blotting paper, you likely have dry skin.

  • If you experienced extra shine and oil in the t-zone but cheeks that were more dry and varying-sized pores (i.e., larger and more noticeable on the t-zone and smaller on the cheeks, etc.), you likely have combination skin.

  • If you experienced evenly balanced skin tone, texture, and oil distribution and small pores that aren’t overly noticeable, you likely have normal skin. This skin type will show minimal oil on the blotting paper.

  • If you experienced delicate skin that was easily inflamed or irritated (i.e., redness, itching, burning, etc.), you likely have sensitive skin. This skin type will generally have small to average-sized pores.

What next? We recommend regularly monitoring and assessing your skin using this technique, as your skin is constantly changing depending on the climate, what you’re consuming, your skincare ritual, how you’re feeling emotionally, and as you age. As always, if you’re unsure, we recommend booking an appointment at Dr Tanya Cosmetic Clinic for a professional consultation to better understand your skin type and its needs.


Once you’re confident in your skin knowledge, the next step is building a skincare ritual carefully curated to suit the needs of your specific skin type. Each of the five skin types has unique characteristics and will all have different requirements to thrive.


The Dr Tanya Skin Type Quiz

A great place to start is with our free Dr Tanya Skin Type Quiz, which will give you personalised product recommendations in just 60 seconds. This quick and easy skin quiz allows you to build a skincare routine with added confidence that you’re investing in products right for your skin. 

The 1:1 Virtual Dr Tanya Skin Consult

If you still need help determining your skin type or answering any of the questions, we offer a separate consultation service. You can book a 15-minute phone consultation with Dr Tanya to discuss your skin queries and concerns one-on-one. This consultation costs $39 and is fully redeemable on Dr Tanya’s products. 

An up close photo of a lady with her fingers on her leg

How to Adjust Your Skincare Routine According to Your Skin Type

By now, you’re likely well aware of how unique each skin type is and why each requires a personalised approach to skincare. You could spend hundreds of dollars on good quality skincare and see little to no results because it’s not the right approach for your unique skin. Simply put, for our skin to flourish, we need to ensure we’re investing in the right skincare. Let’s look at what products best suit the different skin types.


Please note that all skin is unique, and while you may fall into a specific skin type category, this doesn’t necessarily mean your skin will instantly respond to the suggestions below. These are purely generalised suggestions based on each wider skin type. 

Skin Type:

Considerations:

Recommendation:

Oily Skin

This skin type needs products that will help to control excess oil distribution, as well as minimise the likelihood of acne.

Generally speaking, we recommended oil-free and lightweight moisturisers and products.


Products such as Dr Tanya Miracle Cream Cleanser , Radiant Day Cream , and Super C Serum may be advantageous for this skin type.

Dry Skin

This skin type requires thorough hydration and products that help retain moisture.

Opt for skincare that contains gentle ingredients that won’t strip the skin of oils and moisture, and emollients, which moisturise the skin and reduce moisture loss.


Products such as Dr Tanya Luxe Recovery Gel , Hyaluronic Acid Serum , and Holy Basil Face Serum may be suitable for this skin type.

Combination Skin

This skin type requires a combination of products that help to balance the oiliness and dryness in different areas of the face.

You will most likely find lightweight moisturisers and gentle formulas are most suitable for this skin type.



Normal Skin

This skin type already has the right balance of oils, thus really requires a maintenance skincare regime that keeps the skin thriving.

This skin type generally has the pick of the bunch when it comes to skincare. We recommend choosing skincare that continues to balance your skin (i.e., don’t opt for anything that will strip oils or saturate your skin with unnecessary oil… aim for balance!)

Sensitive Skin

This skin type requires ingredients suitable for delicate, sensitive skin. The goal is to find skincare that soothes irritation and avoids any skin reactions.

You will likely find fragrance-free, hypoallergenic products most suitable to your skin.


Products such as Dr Tanya Hoy Basil Serum , Holy Basil Day and Night Cream , Luxe Recovery Gel , and Hyaluronic Acid Serum are our go-to sensitive skin picks. 

A lady holding an open tub of Dr Tanya Holy Basil Day and Night Cream

What Ingredients Should You Look for to Suit Your Skin Type?

Each skin type requires a unique recipe to thrive, complete with specific ingredients to get it there. What exactly does this mean? Skincare products are intentionally formulated for particular skin types, with ingredients tailored to target specific concerns.


While you may have heard about the powerful benefits of certain ingredients, they might not necessarily suit your skin type or concerns. It’s crucial to know which ingredients to embrace and which to avoid, depending on your skin type and goals. Let’s delve a little deeper into this…


Key Ingredients for Oily Skin:

This skin type is most susceptible to experiencing excess oil production, clogged pores, and acne breakouts. The following ingredients may be beneficial:

  • Salicylic Acid: This acid is a BHA widely adored for its ability to deeply penetrate your skin’s surface to exfoliate and extract dead skin cells. In turn, this helps to reduce clogged pores, thus, reducing the likelihood of acne breakouts.

  • Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): This ingredient is important for helping regulate sebum production — a key contributor to oily skin. It can also help reduce inflammation and boost your skin’s barrier function.

  • Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic Acid is known for its undeniably impressive hydrating benefits — which is needed for oily skin, too. It provides necessary (and lightweight) moisture without the unwanted extra oil or skin clogging.

  • Retinol: You may know retinol as the anti-ageing superhero, but little do you know it offers so much more. Retinol’s ability to speed up cell turnover plays an important role in helping to shed dead skin cells, which in turn minimises clogged pores.

[Read More: Surge in Skincare Fame: The Science Behind Hyaluronic Acid Serum ]


Key Ingredients for Dry Skin:

This skin type is most susceptible to skin dryness, tightness, and flakiness. As such, people with this skin type require skincare ingredients that won’t just hydrate the skin but also lock in moisture:

  • Hyaluronic Acid: Did you know Hyaluronic Acid’s skin superpower is that it can hold up to a thousand times its weight in water? Yep, you read that right. What exactly does this mean? It is incredibly hydrating and nourishing for your skin cells and is a must-have for anyone struggling with unwanted dryness and all of the unpleasant symptoms that come with it. Sound like something you need? Our go-to choice is our Dr Tanya Hyaluronic Acid Serum .

  • Ceramides: If you aren’t familiar with Ceramides, we highly recommend adding them to your homework list. Simply put, Ceramides are natural lipids (oil) found in your skin that make up the outer layer and are crucial to your skin health. Ceramides help maintain balance within your skin as they protect it from dehydration and environmental irritants that can cause harm on and beneath the surface. Without an adequate balance of ceramides, your skin barrier can weaken, resulting in dryness and irritation.

  • Squalane: Find yourself getting confused between Squalene and Squalane? Don’t worry; it’s not your eyes or a typo. Technically speaking, Squalane is a stable version of Squalene, which is a lipid produced naturally by your skin cells. Squalane is used in skincare as a protective barrier to minimise water loss, improving hydration and plumpness. You’ll find this key player in Dr Tanya Holy Basil Day + Night Cream and Dr Tanya Luxe Recovery Gel

  • Panthenol (Vitamin B5) — A humectant and emollient that aids moisture absorption, wound healing, and the treatment of inflammation. Psst — you’ll find it in our Dr Tanya Luxe Recovery Gel!

[Read More: Battling Dry Skin? Here’s How to Quench the Thirst]


Key Ingredients for Combination Skin:

This skin type is most susceptible to dryness in certain areas and oiliness in others. People with this skin type require a skincare approach that balances both concerns:

  • Hyaluronic Acid: As mentioned above, we love Hyaluronic Acid for its incredible skin-hydrating benefits that won’t clog your pores or contribute to oiliness due to its lightweight nature.

  • Salicylic Acid: This ingredient, as mentioned above, helps regulate oil production, which may, in turn, minimise clogged pores and the appearance of excessive oiliness.

Key Ingredients for Sensitive Skin:

This skin type is most susceptible to irritation and redness, and thus, should opt for ingredients that offer a calming, gentle skincare solution:

  • Jojoba Oil: This beauty hydrates, repairs, and protects your skin for a brighter, even, and more radiant complexion thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich properties.

  • Aloe Vera: Rich in vitamins and anti-inflammatory properties, this world-renowned botanical is a no-brainer for soothing and healing the skin.

  • Ceramides: If you’re experiencing sensitive skin characterised by itchiness, rough patches, tightness, and more, it could result from a weakened skin barrier due to a loss in ceramides. As such, adding ceramides to your skincare routine may help improve your skin barrier function while minimising moisture loss. 

A close up photo of a lady rubbing face serum on hands

Frequently Asked Questions: Skin Type Edition

How can I identify my skin type?

As mentioned above, you can do a simple at-home skin assessment to help determine your skin type. Here are the easy-to-follow steps:

  1. Cleanse your face thoroughly to remove makeup, oils, and dirt. Pat your face dry and leave your skin without anything on it for an hour.

  2. After the house has passed, assess how your skin looks and feels. For example, does your T-zone look oily or matte? What size are your pores? Does your skin feel tight and flaky? Etc.

  3. Using blotting paper or tissue, blot your face and analyse how much oil is on the paper. For example, is there no oil residue or a fair amount of oil soaked into the sheet?

  4. Refer to the characteristics above to assess what skin type category you likely fit into.

What are the four most common skin types?

The four most common skin types are normal, dry, oily, and combination. Your skin type is influenced by several factors. While genetics plays a significant role in determining, lifestyle factors also have an impact, including your diet, hydration, exposure to pollutants, climate, hormones, age, and health. 

How do you tell if you have dry or oily skin?

Dry and oily skin types have differing characteristics that make it much easier to tell the two apart. 

Oily skin will generally appear more shiny and greasy (particularly in the t-zone area), with pores looking enlarged and more visible. This skin type is more prone to acne breakouts due to the excess oil production.

 Whereas dry skin is generally rough and flakey in texture, with skin that may feel tight and be more easily irritated. Additionally, one’s complexion may appear more dull when experiencing dryness. 

How do you know if your skin is sensitive?

Those with sensitive skin will generally experience red, itchy, dry, and burning skin that is easily irritated by elements, skincare, and chemicals. 

Is acne caused by oily or dry skin?

While any skin type can experience acne as there are several factors that influence acne breakouts, oily skin is generally more susceptible to it.


Wondering why? Oily skin is the result of overactive sebaceous glands producing more oil that what is required. As such, dead skin is more likely to clog skin pores due to the excess oil, resulting in acne breakouts.